I was super excited, my prayers were answered, my father in law used his influences to get me the coveted internship with the corporate giant ITC at Bangalore…yes can you believe this, I had got married while doing my post graduation and was therefore very keen to be in my marital home and this final project was the right excuse.
Getting the infant curriculum vitae ready was an onerous task in the pre internet days and utmost and diligent care was taken to get all the vital details in and dad was my super hero in fine tuning the resume to suit the requirements, tailor made for the corporate world. The references went in and I was overjoyed at the first independent outlook that the CV gave me!
Last minute parleys and confabulations with my college to get the official letter sanctioned from the director. The official confirmation letter(which is preserved till date) from the conglomerate approving the internship was a dream come true and my first stepping stone to being a management graduate and carve a niche for myself in the world of high heels, formally and immaculately attired, with impeccable accentuated English and a professional protocol. Here I was on that threshold that marks a graduation from the corridors of learning to the power corridors!
There were looks of jealousy and skepticism from my dear classmates as they knew that the cigarette company was not letting in students for internship in the Bangalore facility and scratching their heads as to how I managed the deal! Packed, raring to go and excitement doubled on two accounts; the internship and the thought of staying with my hubby for two months, I was indeed starry eyed!
I got over the nervousness at the new home front as my Mother in law was a rotund sweet woman and she made me feel very much at home. Next impediment was meeting Mr. Iyengar, head of the cigarette division and who was the all powerful man from Calcutta! I tagged my hubby and dad in law to the company dreading my incapacity in striking the appropriate and meaningful conversation. Father in law’s demeanour and courteousness on meeting the head honcho literally bowled me over. My FIL always dressed in a veshti came attired in suit just to impress him and they talked about the family ITC agency for about ten minutes before eventually turning attention to this shivering soul. “Well, Sunita, you may be aware that we do not award internship to MBAs here, but the relationship that exists between your father in law and the company dates back to many years and we are obliged to offer you the same. I expect that you would do justice and present the project report at the end of the term.” He minced no words and I just nodded my head in absolute eagerness. He introduced me to Mr. Joseph, to whom I was supposed to report and Mr. Murali who would be my guide. Mr. Joseph was doing full justice to the company by smoking like a chimney and somehow I had a premonition that all was not going to be alright between me and this smart acting puffing officer. He had a conceited look and the eyes simply told me “don’t mess around as I am the boss”!
I had to go around the north zone to all the outlets taking surveys on the supply mode and the ad banners, the boons and banes of choosing marketing as the specialization. If I thought that Joseph would be my nemesis, Murali was a tormentor to put it in very mild terms! Each day for the next two weeks I had to report to the office, where Joseph would bark orders amidst screens of smoke, which was totally incorrigible and then head to the zonal chief agency to follow their hawkers on two wheelers with bulging cardboard boxes on the sides full of different brands of cigarettes! From Wills Navy Cut, Gold Flake Kings, Gold Flake Premium lights, Gold Flake Super Star, Insignia, India Kings, Classic (Verve, Menthol, Menthol Rush, Regular, Citric Twist, Mild & Ultra Mild), 555, Silk Cut, Scissors, Capstan, Berkeley, Bristol, Lucky Strike, Players, Flake and Duke & …so on were all hammered into my head and armed with my questionnaire ( not professionally framed but a crude one) went in my new Kinetic Honda scooter, my hubby had purchased to save the damsel in distress! I wound my way through the galis, streets, blocks, phases and stages of Bangalore, following the zipping hawkers to the various stores, pan shops and hotels. Most of the times, they had contempt for me and never bothered to answer any of the questions that I put forth, there was this masculine prejudice and the bastion was a male dominated one and adding insult to injury was the product I was handling!
After three hours of jaunt, I came back reported to the agency and then back to the office on Richmond road to see the nods of dissatisfaction from my boss and the words of discouragement from the guide. I reframed the questions for the umpteenth time, taking cues from the agency and others to be better equipped the next day. I became bolder by the day and elicited some response finally. Collating the reports and formatting them in the scheduled dissertation proved like climbing Mount Everest, the latter would have been definitely easier of the two!
Chores of editing, censoring, redoing became the order of the day and time was running out. Amidst all the brouhaha of putting the report in order, I forgot to enjoy the bliss of newly married days. Desperate to roam the fashion streets of brigade and commercial road, hopping into the aromatic restaurants, and taking in the salubrious air of the parks, I played truant for the next couple of days. The day of presentation dawned and I somehow managed to hoodwink the middlemen and reported directly to the head with my report all done up aesthetically with coloured pullouts, graphs and other embellishments that cost me quite a fortune in those days but it was well the effort, he was too busy and tied down to ask me too many questions and I managed to impress him with the little knowledge that I had imbibed in the one and half months. I was waiting for him to ink the report and once it was done, I took a leaf out of my FILs book of courtesy and humility.
My sojourn into the much hyped corporate world was a mixed bag with excitement and disappointments but it was one hell of a learning experience for me…holy smoke and going up in smoke as well!!!